Public Perceptions of Nanotechnologies: Lessons from GM Foods
This chapter assesses how public attitudes to new food technologies and the key ‘actors' in the debate (scientists, consumer groups, industry, the media and environmental groups) have changed over recent years, and how these changes may impact on our acceptance of nanotechnologies in food. It argues that, for a new technology, like nanotechnologies, the public must provide, in effect, a ‘licence to produce’ before the new products can come to the market and succeed. It highlights that despite the fact that the current level of public knowledge of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology is very low, more people were optimistic about nanotechnology in 2005 than in 2002. The chapter also points to one of the hard-learned lessons from the GM debate that the vast majority of European people are not really interested in science unless they have a personal need. Therefore an informed engagement of public on nano-foods is likely to be challenging. It also suggests ways to move the nano(bio)technology debate forward, and stresses the need to encourage and support scientists to explain their science and its significance for the general good.